Limit Office 365 Telemetry with this undocumented setting - gHacks Tech News

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Limit Office 365 Telemetry with this undocumented setting

Office 365, just like Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and other Microsoft products collect and submit telemetry data to Microsoft servers by default. Only a few options to limit data collection are provided to most users of Windows and other Microsoft products; Enterprise customers do get more options.

When it comes to Office 365, there is an undocumented setting that administrators may set on Windows devices to limit telemetry.

The setting was revealed by Aleksandar Milenkoski on Twitter. Milenkoski analyzed telemetry in Microsoft Office and published a report about his findings for the German Federal Office for Information Security. The English version of the report is available as a PDF document that you can download / view with a click on this link.

It includes a treasure trove of information about telemetry in Office, including an entire chapter on disabling the output of diagnostic data. The chapter lists Microsoft endpoint servers that telemetry data is submitted to and an undocumented Registry setting that will limit telemetry when enabled.

disable telemetry office 365

Here is what needs to be done:

  1. Use Windows-R to open the run box on the Windows system.
  2. Type regedit.exe and click OK to load the Registry Editor.
  3. Confirm the UAC prompt if it is displayed.
  4. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\office\
    common\clienttelemetry\.

    1. Create missing keys by right-clicking on the previous key and selecting New > Key. Name them according to the path information.
  5. Right-click on clienttelemetry and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value.
  6. Name it DisableTelemetry.
  7. Set its value to 1 to disable some of the data collecting that goes on normally.

Milenkoski notes:

Setting the registry value HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\office\
common\clienttelemetry\DisableTelemetry to 1 disables the Aria and Nexus Office telemetry
modules (see Section 2). For example, if DisableTelemetry is set to 1, Office applications do not load the
MSOARIANEXT.dll library file, which implements Aria (see Section 2.1)

He goes on to note that the setting does not impact Office functionality. Not all data collecting is disabled when the Registry value is set to 1.

However, it disables the output of diagnostic data only from the Aria and Nexus Office telemetry modules. It
does not disable, for example, the output of diagnostic data produced by connected experiences, sent to
Microsoft by Windows telemetry modules (see Section 2). For example, when DisableTelemetry is set to
1, OLE32 Extensions for Win32 still sends diagnostic events to
hubblecontent.osi.office.net/contentsvc/api/telemetry when a user uses the Insert Icon
connected experience in Word.

The undocumented Registry setting cannot be configured using the Group Policy editor. Milenkoski lists policies that are relevant for limited telemetry as well in the document.

Now You: which Office application do you use? (via Ask Woody)

Summary
Limit Office 365 Telemetry with this undocumented setting
Article Name
Limit Office 365 Telemetry with this undocumented setting
Description
Find out how to limit the collecting and transferring of Office 365 telemetry data by setting an undocumented value in the Windows Registry.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Anonymous said on November 15, 2020 at 7:14 pm
    Reply

    This is why I use older versions of all Microsoft products.

    1. Tom said on November 16, 2020 at 8:40 pm
      Reply

      As much as I’d like to switch to LibreOffice, my limited experience with Base is holding me back.

  2. BocaDeb2019 said on November 15, 2020 at 7:16 pm
    Reply

    Martin, thank you for posting this.

    And thank you Dr. Aleksandar Milenkoski for the research.

    Well done to you both!

  3. VioletMoon said on November 15, 2020 at 9:12 pm
    Reply

    Love the final paragraph:

    “There is no known central configuration setting that disables all telemetry modules. There is also no such setting that configures Office to stop producing diagnostic events. Fully disabling the output of diagnostic data produced by Office requires the application of a combination of approaches.”

    And the revelation that by changing the Group Policy Editor to “neither” doesn’t stop Office from implementing a configuration “such that ‘no diagnostic data about Office client software running on the user’s device is sent to Microsoft.'”

    Wow! My guess is that even if a user implements a “combination of approaches,” the settings will soon revert to their originals.

  4. ShintoPlasm said on November 15, 2020 at 9:13 pm
    Reply

    Serious question: what does Microsoft gain from all this incessant telemetry?

    1. Anonymous said on November 16, 2020 at 9:17 am
      Reply

      They sell them. Microsoft has recently sued for sharing Office 365 user data with Facebook.

      theregister.com/2020/07/20/microsoft_office_data_facebook/

    2. parasite said on November 16, 2020 at 9:23 am
      Reply

      So they can remove YOU from the equation

  5. Anonymous said on November 15, 2020 at 9:26 pm
    Reply

    Telemetry here, telemetry there, telemetry everywhere. Everyone uses it ‘for your benefit’.
    My son’s Dell CPU was constantly running at 20% and higher. Dell telemetry off. Problem solved.

  6. Gordon said on November 16, 2020 at 7:16 am
    Reply

    In addition to all the privacy issues, all this telemetry undoubtedly has a very real cost in energy consumption and environmental damage.

    I don’t use or recommend any software that has telemetry that cannot be disabled. This includes all recent versions of MS Office and Windows 10.

  7. Moobs said on November 16, 2020 at 12:32 pm
    Reply

    Aaaaand next patch tuesday will include a patch which removes that registry setting. Because F U little pi**-ant users, that’s why.

  8. Mystique said on November 16, 2020 at 3:00 pm
    Reply

    Wouldn’t something like privatewin10 help with its “tweak guard” and “Rule guard” to prevent and/or re-enable changes to its tweaks when undone by windows or office.

    It seems like a reasonable software but I haven’t done and audit on it, reviewed it or used it extensively. Perhaps Martin will look at it or if someone knows something about it I don’t that makes it any less useful than other similar software or why it isn’t a raging success because by the looks of it on the surface it looks pretty interesting for what it offers.

  9. RiotQontrol said on November 16, 2020 at 6:52 pm
    Reply

    MS has not acted on my incessant issue of Outlook and Word locking up requiring and “End Task”. But I keep sending feedback and telems.

  10. nunya said on November 17, 2020 at 3:35 am
    Reply

    pi hole. its like domain raid. kills telemetry dead.

  11. SpywareFan said on November 25, 2020 at 9:54 am
    Reply

    Thanks Martin for this useful info!
    This weekend I will test this reg mod with Office 2016, just to see if temp folder is filled with useless logs, but my main concerns are with unwanted startup connections to skype (uninstalled, but still see blocked connection attempts when opening Excel) and other M$ cdn’s and datagrabbin’ websites.
    Meanwhile I’m testing latest LO xml filtering, if Calc fit my needs I will dump M$ bloatware. (freedom!)

  12. Marine said on November 25, 2020 at 9:13 pm
    Reply

    Additional help/workaround?
    I used the ping command at the cmd prompt (as admin) using the prod.hubblecontent.osi.office.net reference and it gave me prod.hubblecontent.osi.office.net.akadns.net (52.109.2.97) – you can block that address through Windows Defender Firewall and/or your hosts file (at C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts

    1. Marine said on November 25, 2020 at 9:14 pm
      Reply

      p.s. – Thanks for your efforts here, Martin.

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